Western Carolina University graduate student Karen Dodson was just completing an ordinary assignment for an English class last spring when she transcribed and edited several Civil War-era letters, but her work soon will be published in a prestigious journal that focuses on the life and work of American literary icon Walt Whitman.
To complete the assignment for a research methods class, the Atlanta resident chose three letters to edit and transcribe that are held in the Special Collections office at WCU’s Hunter Library. Two of the letters are in complete form and were written by brothers of Walt Whitman, while the third document is a fragment of a letter written by Whitman himself.
Dodson completed her Whitman letter project for the class, but following the suggestion of an English department faculty member, she sent an article that includes the transcribed letters to the editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, based at the University of Iowa. The staff of that journal determined that the letter fragment written by Whitman had been previously published, but the two letters from Whitman’s brothers, Jeff Whitman and George Whitman, had never been published and made available to Whitman scholars across the country.
Dodson edited her article to include only the letters by Jeff and George Whitman. It is scheduled to be published in the Whitman review this fall.
The letter by George Whitman was written from the battlefields at New Bern, where he was serving in the Union army, and both letters reflect the importance of Walt Whitman’s family in the poet’s life, Dodson said.
Dodson, who recently completed the final requirements to receive her master’s degree in literature, said she was thrilled to get a telephone call from the editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review informing her that her article would be included in that publication. That accomplishment “reflects very well on the quality of the graduate English program at WCU,” she said.
Dodson said she is grateful for the assistance she received from English department faculty members Elizabeth Addison and Brent Kinser, and from Brian Gastle, who taught the research methods class last spring, but who now serves as associate dean of WCU’s Graduate School.
Dodson said finishing the requirements for a master’s degree at WCU completes her 25-year quest to become qualified to teach college English courses. She began work as an adjunct professor of English at Gainesville State College in Gainesville, Ga., this month.
Dodson received her bachelor’s degree in English at Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga., in 2005, and she enrolled in WCU’s graduate program to have an opportunity to delve into the life and work of English author John Milton with WCU English department faculty member Mimi Fenton, an internationally renowned scholar of Milton’s works.
Dodson recently completed her master’s degree thesis, “Moments of Silent Contemplation in ‘Paradise Lost,’” under Fenton’s direction.